Wednesday, 15 August 2018


Ishie (11.5 yr), Alastair (10 yr) and now Harriet (5 yr) started school today.

It is Harriet's first day and Primary School and Ishie's first day at Secondary School.  Alastair will now be in his last year of Primary School.

Indy is also back to school  this week in California.  He is in Grade 2 (aged 7 yrs).

Meanwhile Dad is heading off to do the Nursery run with one less child; only Ellie now.  She is OK with all of this "School is for the big kids. I'm a little girl."  She will be going next year.

She is a real 'clothes horse' meaning that she is very fussy about what she wears and it always has be a dress.

Ishie has a brand new blazer. She looks very smart!

Ishie 11 on the deck with Alastair, 10 years old.

Alastair has combed his hair.  I just thought I would record the fact to mark this rather rare phenomenon!

Harriet getting ready for her first day at school.
 Ah ... the joys of getting them out the door every morning!

* * * * * *
Finally... Alastair and Mairi in 1985.  Alastair is 9 and Mairi is 10 years old.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018


School starts tomorrow so Ishie and I had a bit of a hitting the malls for a couple of hours.

It was pouring rain and where better to be than in a covered car park at Braehead heading for the shops in the mall that sell jangle jewellery, T shirts and loadsastuff made in China, Indonesia, India that fills every window, rack and display cabinet.

I was amazed at how cheap some of the garments were! And the quality was well... middling... but not certainly not rubbish. However a question that occurred to me was: where does the stuff that isn't sold end up?

Wandering around with Ishie amongst the T shirts was actually quite fun; some of the 'artwork'  caught my eye!







Sunday, 12 August 2018


Iain and I went through to a show at the Edinburgh Festival this week. The city was alive with visitors all enjoying the good weather and street life. Edinburgh certainly is a great setting for wandering around, having a coffee, taking in a show, and for us... heading back to Waverly Station and the train home again. 

We went to see Gyles Brandreth doing his 1 hour show "Break a Leg". It was terrific!  Early in the show he asks "Is anyone here a visitor?!"  From the front a voice " Yes... from Bel Air, Maryland". 

Brandreth who clearly enjoyed the chance to  ad lib is a walking encyclopedia e.g. he tells us all about one famous person from there: John Wilkes Booth.  

Now I know a thing or two about this chap (I share the same surname and, I have now discovered, date of birth!). He is the man who, on April 14, 1865, assassinated President Lincoln.

What I did not know was that he was born near Bel Air, Maryland; was the second youngest of 10 children. His father, Junius Brutus Booth, was a well-known actor...."

It occurred to me that Gyles might not know the story of the doctor who treated Booth for his broken leg. I asked him afterwards at the book signing ... No, he did not know it so I briefly mentioned that, being a man interested in words and language, he might search on line for the story....

... which is this: Dr Samuel Mudd was the doctor whose farm John Wilkes Booth went to after assassinating Abraham Lincoln. He set his broken leg, unknowingly becoming an accomplice. He was wrongfully accused and tried and convicted as a member of a conspiracy. Though he claimed to be innocent, he was still convicted and suffered immense hardship. His wife worked tirelessly to get him released. (He was eventually pardoned by Pres. A. Johnson.)

And what I thought Gyles would enjoy discovering is: from this we get the expression used in this sentence: "You had better not do that or name will be Mudd."

Sunday, 5 August 2018


Iain and I had a day out today.  We headed to Rothesay to see a boat 'Bluebird' which has been restored.

Donald Campbell used to test his jet-engine hydroplane  'Bluebird' to see how fast she could go.(He broke eight world speed records on water and on land in the 1950s and 1960s.) He died on January 4 1967 aged 45 when it flipped into the air and disintegrated as he attempted a new water speed record on Coniston Water in Cumbria. (He had set himself a target of reaching 300mph.)

In 2001 Campbell’s body – with his race suit intact – and the wreckage of 'Bluebird' were recovered from the depths of the lake.

The restored boat came to Bute this weekend on a low-loader from South Shields where  Bill Smith, an engineer, has since been lovingly restoring the boat to her former glory.

Here are some photos I took today on my iPhone.  

Quite by chance Iain and I arrived at exactly the moment the first test run was about to take place.  I simply held up my iPhone and managed to capture the start.  There is silence ... then the noise of the jet-engine  Va ro-o-o-o-m echoes across the lake! Wow!  (Takes me back to the days when I watched hydroplane races on Lake Okanagan at the Kelowna Regatta and also Lake Chelan in Washington State.)

Above is a video of 40 seconds at the start (with Iain in the foreground)

and a shorter one of 16  seconds at the end of the test run.

Saturday, 4 August 2018


It has been hot.  My little helpers have been out with the watering can. These 2 plastic flamingos in the garden have given us hours of pleasure.  They arrived last year via the Amazon delivery van in a box the size of car tyre having been sent from Florida by Alastair. 

I am sure all this watering will help them survive the winter!

It's been a wonderful summer for being out in the garden.  A couple of chairs, a rug or two and .... you've got a playhouse.  Add to that half a packet of Oreo's and some toys and they are set for the afternoon.

Ellie ... or she says of herself  "Ellie May" ... May being her middle name.

She and Harriet were with me today but Harriet was in bed ill with a tummy bug.  Feeling very hot I asked Harriet if I could spray some perfume (well  actually 'toilet water') on her to make smell nice and keep cool.  No...

So I turned to Ellie and said "Will I spray some on you?"  "No" she said. "I don't have any bugs in my hair!"

Lastly here is Ishie who was here yesterday. She was baking with her friend Anna.   She's 11.5 years old.  While baking is not her most favourite thing she is getting very good at using the food mixer and attending to pots or the frying pan  on the gas hob unit.  She loves making 'traybakes' using melted chocolate ... but oh!!! how the kitchen cupboards and floor get covered in it!

Wednesday, 11 July 2018


There's a new book out which looks at Glasgow hidden gems.  I suppose we all have our own list of favourite corners of the city.  Glasgow, while it has obvious signs of tourists about the place, is not a 'touristy' city.  Edinburgh certainly is no matter what month of the year.

Exploring Glasgow is great fun.  Keeping away from the obvious magnets e.g. Charles Rennie MacIntosh (and that includes 'Mockintosh') sites the joy comes from the less obvious attractions ... which is exactly what this book it about.

Before illustrating some sites listed I have to declare an interest from 40 years ago: three other women and I published a similar book called 'Try Glasgow'.  It was based on the fact that we found it a great city to live in; it was just hard to find things!

The main driving force was Marian St Onge and Sue Hight and Susan Wallace and I contributed (particularly at the end when dealing with the Milngavie chap, Colin Harvey, who printed it in 1976). 

Looking back at it I noticed the wonderful artwork by Margaret Bancewicz. Moira Forrester typed it and Joyce Begbie contributed many ideas. I think the print run was 1500 copies.

What happened afterwards?  Sue and Marion (had already) returned to the States and I had my second baby; no more was ever done. I recall Susan and I were interviewed on BBC radio by Magnus Magnusson who said "M-m-m-m... it's a bit of a curate's egg!"  I had never heard that expression so just smiled and said nothing.  [It means: good in parts]

So what did my friend and I find last week on our exploration?

This chap sells coffee out of a (former) blue police box which is near Glasgow Cathedral.  We found him, not because of the book (which we did now know about), but we were looking to have a cup of coffee.  It was mid-morning in a practically empty city centre. Schools were out, people were on holiday or glued to the 2018 TV World Cup football.

His name is Rocco and he served us really good coffee from his Italian coffee machine (a proper one) installed inside the police box.  We got chatting and he told us how he was No 36 in this new book by Tom Shields.  

Tom had given him 5 copies informing him that he was in it.  Of course he was chuffed.  Having sold 3 he sold us the 2 he had left.   He certainly is an oasis in a deserted part of the city in terms of getting a cup of coffee on a Monday morning. (Museum across the road closed. Glasgow Royal Infirmary up the road are regular customers. This is a good example of what I am talking about, i.e. just ordinary people making a difference.. and happy to pass the time of day. In Glasgow they talk about 'good craic' i.e. good'chat'.)

We had already planned to visit Fairfields Shipyard on the other side of the Clyde in Govan. After lunch in the Pearce Institute we strolled down to the river. Looking back at the city I took this photo of Transport Museum and 'Glenlee' in the foreground...... sadly all museum stuff on a river that once was heaving with commerce and shipbuilding.

Even older that the industrial based commerce and shipbuilding era was the fact that this part of the west of Scotland has many archeological remains of viking and early Celtic settlements.  This photo above is taken in the churchyard of Govan Parish Church (which houses humpback viking gravestones - properly described as 'hogback' ) [No 50].  But what it also shows is the derelict ground full of weeds which lies between the churchyard perimeter and the edge of the Clyde.  It was once an area of heavy river traffic associated with the many shipyards, dockyards and liner and ferry terminals that have now long gone.

Lastly one building that is left is Fairfields Shipyard Museum ... again a pale shade of past years where they built the big liners that went from Glasgow to Canada and USA with thousands of immigrants.  The museum is full of memorabilia of this era.

A local initiative saved the office block which, after renovation, shows the beautiful woodwork done by carpenters in the days when they trained as apprentices and used all different types of wood with workmanship of a very high standard.  (Precious little of any of that any more!)

The photo shows the front entrance hall as seen from the stairwell above.  GS stands for Govan Shipbuilders. I was particularly taken with this building as I used to work in an office that had the same feel to it i.e. where the 'hats' (bowler hatted management) were located above the work floor (cloth caps).  It had the same wood flooring and cases for keeping books and linen drawings. 

And on our way out to the yard (the original yard with its rail lines still in the ground) we saw Tom Shields red book on the entrance hall front desk. They are in the book too ... another hidden gem at No. 38 - well worth a visit.

Thursday, 5 July 2018


Today I am joining the rest of the UK in celebrating the 70th birthday of the National Health Service.  It was formed on this day in 1948 to give free or low-cost healthcare health care (doctor's surgeries hospitals, dental and eye services) to all legal residents of the U.K. It is funded out of our taxes.

Having worked as a nurse (staff, public health and Area Health Board 'Nursing Research') in the NHS I have a few memories.  Over the years I have had occasion to use the NHS both as an employee and as a patient.

In the late 1960s I got a job at Oakbank Hospital (below).  It was a former 'poorhouse' and was a real shock for me.  I had never been in a building over one hundred years old! It was Victorian sandstone and very black with coal smoke.  It was being temporarily used for the children's hospital as Yorkhill Children's Hospital had been found to be structurally unsound.

Two memories:  [1] rats running around the doorways in the courtyard and [2] the doctor telling me to put some cream on the baby's "wee bahhookie".  [bottom]!!

  Glaswegians queuing for X-ray screening for tuberculosis (TB) in George Square, on the final day of the campaign in 1957.

Scotland both historically and in our present day does not do well in terms of the health of its people.  When I first arrived I worked with people who remembered long queues of people at TB clinics, children vomiting in the streets (whooping cough).

Nowadays it is still Glasgow (with its poverty) that contributes to the sorry picture of Scotland's health. One only has to think of all the conditions that one associates with poor diet and housing (and unemployment) e.g. obesity, heart disease, dental caries to name but a few.

I am often irritated when the media give out the tables of how the NHS is coping because they do not give the context in which  the various services are working.  For example, a given hospital has a high death rate among a certain sector of the population. They don't say that the hospital is in an area of poverty and deprivation where, for example, drug addicts are sleeping out in all weather (except when they find a space in the hallway of the hospital in freezing temperatures).

Two memories of public health experience in the early 1970s [1] visiting a young mother who had a baby out of wedlock. She decided to keep the baby and not give it up for adoption.  That was the first time I came across that.

[2] Having to visit a family of 'travellers' (gypsies) who lived in a caravan [trailer] and did not send their children to school.

Around about the late 1980s I worked for the Greater Glasgow Health Board for a lady in charge of 'Nursing Research'.  My job was to monitor the students nurses labelled as 'trailers' (stuck in the system as they did not move to the next stage of their training) in the 5 Glasgow hospitals where they had Schools of Nursing.  It was an office job in the centre of the city.  I liked it but the lady responsible for the work died. The post was never filled (money saving); my job evaporated.

Two memories:  [1] I worked with a PET computer. Having learned to type at school I just loved this new technology which used floppy discs; I learned to carry a screw-driver as I had to constantly tighten the 'dongle' at the back.

[2] There were enormous problems with old buildings especially psychiatric institutions which were in a really bad state of repair.

In the early 1990s I worked for a microbiologist who was involved with cleanrooms.  I worked in the office using a computer and was involved with preparing manuscripts for books on Cleanroom Technology as well as educational material for courses on that subject.

I became very good at using a word processor, data base software and spreadsheets as well as early days of desk-top publishing with Pagemaker software.  If I recall correctly this was about the time I was first introduced to emails.  (Fax machines were still used a lot; great screeds of paper would be on the floor when I arrived in the morning.)

Memories: [1] Learning of the work in the 1960s of Dr John Charnley, Manchester. Charnley pioneered the fight against hospital-based infections. He designed a special surgical suit, the clean air operating theatre and a system for handling surgical instruments that significantly reduced the chances of patients contracting infections during orthopaedic operations.

 Charnley's green suit (above) with a hose out the back for ventilation

Charnley's green room (above), i.e. a tent covering the operating table.  Early days of laminar flow.

Apparently he was ignored by his peers because he was based out of London and had to put up with a lot of snobbery.  It is interesting to note that this particular 70h birthday week I notice his work is highlighted in topics on TV or newspapers.


[1]  Discs for the computer went from A drive floppy to A drive hard disc.  The printer jammed all the time and any male on the staff who was about when this happened scarpered out the door!  They did not want to know about computers nor printers and their problems!

[2]  I wrote an article about Killearn Hospital outside Glasgow.  It was a collection of wooden buildings which were used for neurological wards (Glasgow Royal Infirmary).  One story was of an operating room with windows that were open to the outside where they had to put a piece of gauze over it to keep the flies out.  It became derelict in the 1990s and when I visited it  it was used by sheep to keep out of the rain. (It is still there today.)

 And today ....

The new Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow  

This is where Mairi had Baby Ellie 3 years ago. It's a vast 'campus' with multi-story car parking. That flat bit on the top of the building is a helicopter pad. 

 Surgeon operating on a patient having a cataract removed.

That was me 3 weeks ago... all done on the NHS.